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Debbie Riddle

Cottage foods update

A month ago, I wrote about a website called Texas Cottage Food Law, which is working to pass a bill that would allow folks who bake bread and cakes and whatnot to sell their wares from their homes. I’m pleased to report that they’re making some progress in their quest.

For the past four-and-a-half weeks HB 3282 has been held up in the Public Health Committee. The bill was voted out of the Public Health Committee by a unanimous vote of 9-0 around 6:30 p.m. on April 28. A report is now being prepared to be sent to the Calendars Committee to await placement for floor debate and vote. This alone could take up to a week.

“If no actions are taken by May 11 the bill dies,” Magnolia area home-school student and cake enthusiast Emily Doty said. “I am so passionate about the passing of this bill because my grandma baked for years and it is something I would like to have the option to do later.”

Doty said that the bill has a lot of public support. Rep. Dan Gattis discussed his bill allowing for the production of baked goods in an individual’s home before the Committee on Public Health, on March 27.

He introduced the Cottage Food Production Act after being contacted by a constituent who wanted to see a change in the law.

Cake Boss Kelley Masters of CakeCentral.com wrote the representative seeking assistance so individuals such as herself could legally sell baked goods made in their homes. In addition to hearing from Masters, Gattis received numerous calls and a signed petition from more than 2,000 Texans supporting such legislation, according to a Texas House of Representatives press release.

“The Cottage Food Production Bill is about encouraging entrepreneurship among individuals who want to legally sell their baked goods,” Gattis said. “A number of successful businesses began in people’s homes, from Microsoft and Dell, to Paula Dean and Tiff’s Treats. This bill provides a starting place for bakers in Texas to earn some additional income and opens the doors for additional successful businesses in the future.”

Reps. Allen Vaught and Debbie Riddle are now co-authors of HB3282, and according to Masters, who sent me the link to this article, Sen. Steve Ogden has agreed to sponsor it if it reaches the Senate. It’s all up to the Calendars committee now, so contact its membership if you want to see this move forward.

House passes budget, slaps Perry

State Rep. Chris Turner, on Twitter:

At 3:56 am, the House unanimously passed the budget.

Believe it or not, that was earlier than was originally anticipated. The pregame chatter was that the House would have to reconvene today to finish the job, given the vast number of amendments that needed to be slogged through. It helped that the debate was largely civil, with many contentious amendments, the kind that get inserted to force record votes for future campaign fodder, got withdrawn.

“The real story tonight is that we all worked together, arm in arm, to pass a budget that we can all be proud of. We have shown that working together, we can do what is right for Texas and for Texans,” said Appropriations Committee Chairman Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie.

The mostly sedate debate – there was a random “bring it on!” when one lawmaker questioned another’s amendment – ran the gamut of sometimes hot-button subjects while intentionally steering clear of a couple of sensitive issues.

House members voted to ban public funding for private school vouchers, bar the Texas Department of Transportation from hiring lobbyists, pay for rail relocation to pave the way for a high-speed passenger train from San Antonio to Dallas under an amendment by Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon, D-San Antonio, and change teacher incentive funding to give local school districts more control under an amendment by Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio.

The Republican governor would see losses on two fronts under the proposal approved at 4 a.m.

The measure would drain most of the operating funds for Perry’s office, instead using it to pay for community mental health crisis services and veterans’ services under amendments by Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, and John Davis, R-Houston.

In addition, if Gov. Rick Perry carries through on his vow to block some $555 million in stimulus funds for unemployment benefits, he would lose the $136 million in the Enterprise Fund.

That budget amendment by Reps. Armando Walle, D-Houston, and Yvonne Davis, D-Dallas, would transfer the money to the unemployment trust fund that pays benefits to workers.

“He (Perry) is having a bad day,” said Rep. Jim Dunnam, D-Waco. “He might have to secede.”

But an effort to slash funding for Planned Parenthood was dropped, and lawmakers also decided to forgo consideration of a ban on embryonic stem cell research.

I’ll expand on some of these points in a minute, but first let me say that this, finally, was the kind of thing I had envisioned when Joe Straus was gaining momentum to knock off Tom Craddick as Speaker. The budget debate was substantive, it focused on real issues and not ideological talking points, and in the end it was passed unanimously. Does anyone think that would have happened if Craddick were still running the show? I sure don’t. Straus hasn’t been the end of the rainbow by any means, but he gets a ton of credit for this.

Now then. As fun as it is to contemplate a penniless Governor’s office – perhaps its functions can be privatized; I hear Accenture is looking for a new gig – that was just a bit of a shell game that will ultimately be rectified. Of much greater importance, and much more likely to have a real effect, was the amendment to zero out the Enterprise Fund.

Rep. Trey Martinez-Fischer proposed an amendment that would keep Texas companies from receiving money from the Enterprise Fund and the Emerging Technology Fund if they’d already been bailed out by the feds. (Withdrawn.) Rep. Marisa Marquez tried to keep Perry’s funds from bailing out corporations that laid people off while paying bonuses to executives. (Also withdrawn) And Rep. Joe Moody wanted to prohibit cash flow from Perry’s funds to companies that contributed to his, Dewhurst’s or Straus’ campaigns. Debbie Riddle killed that bit of fun with a point of order. (She’s good at that.)

Then, Rep. Armando Walle wanted to nix the $136 million appropriation for the Enterprise Fund in the 2010-11 biennium if none of the unemployment insurance bills pass. The idea here is that if the unemployment insurance bills don’t pass, then Texas won’t get the $555 million for the unemployment trust fund, which Perry rejected last month. And the Enterprise Fund siphons money from the trust fund. So what Walle wanted to do with his amendment is say to Perry, “Veto the unemployment insurance bills, and we’ll zero out your slush fund.” But that amendment didn’t fly, either. Died on a point of order.

So far, Mark Strama has been the only one of the bunch to have any success. His amendment, which passed, says that the Emerging Tech Fund should prioritize funding for energy-related R & D projects.

But stay tuned. Yvonne Davis’ amendment, which would completely eliminate funding for Perry’s Enterprise Fund, was temporarily withdrawn, but seems like it might have some success.

And in the end, Rep. Davis’ amendment was accepted. I’m not exactly sure how it differed from Rep. Walle’s amendment, but the bottom line is that as things stand now, if Perry vetoes SB1569, whose prospects for passing the House look better to me now, then he nixes his own slush fund. You gotta love that.

Other matters of interest: School vouchers go down again. Teacher incentive pay gets an overhaul. Various petty amendments bite the dust amid general good will and the liberal use of points of order.

The floor fights have been few and far between. We hear that House members on the left and right have struck a truce and agreed to pull down their most controversial budget amendments.

That includes Panhandle Republican Warren Chisum’s proposal to de-fund Planned Parenthood. Chisum’s amendment had family family planning providers worried. But the amendment never came up.

Leo Berman, the Tyler Republican, did bring forth two amendments aimed at illegal immigrants. One would have instructed state health officials not to issue birth certificates to children of illegal immigrants (who, under current law, are U.S. citizens). Berman also tried to tax money transfers sent from Texas back to Mexico, and Central and South America. Both of Berman’s amendments were shot down on points of order because they changed state law, which isn’t allowed during the budget debated.

All in all, it was a pretty good day. There were some more goodies and the requisite amount of silliness, as one would expect for an 18-hour marathon. I recommend you read Vince’s exhaustive liveblogging to get a feel for that. In the meantime, the budget now goes to the conference committee so that the differences between the House and Senate versions can be ironed out. Burka things the Senate has the advantage in that, so who knows how much of what the House did will ultimately survive. All I know is that having seen the budget process under Tom Craddick three times, this was a vast improvement.

UPDATE: From Texas Impact:

Among the most important improvements the House made on the floor were:

They call the House budget “a significant improvement over the Senate budget”. Let’s hope we can say the same after the conference committee. Link via EoW.

No open carry

The “Open Carry” movement, which was advocating for a change to Texas’ concealed carry law to allow guns to be worn in plain view, appears to have failed as no bill was filed to achieve this end.

[A]fter months lobbying the Legislature, members of the grassroots gun group [OpenCarry.org] have conceded that they could not persuade any Texas lawmaker to file open carry legislation this session, said Ian McCarthy, a student who chairs the Texas Open Carry Work Group.

“I’ve been calling, meeting, doing everything but nobody wants to introduce it,” he said.

It’s not as if there wasn’t ample interest among lawmakers, McCarthy said, but “most of them are just loaded down with so many bills they’ve already introduced.”

State Rep. Debbie Riddle, whom the open carry folks tagged months ago as the bills presumptive sponsor, had the legislation drafted but never introduced it. Her chief of staff explained to open carry members in an email that such legislation was unlikely to pass and that talks of an open carry proposal have already caused difficulties for other Second Amendments bills.

I find this more than a little surprising, but as had been noted before, this may have been a bit of a turf battle.

In the roughly six months since the group started fundraising through online donations to pay for radio spots, billboards and advertising on taxi’s across Texas, they apparently did little to gain favor with the gun lobby.

The Texas State Rifle Association, a state affiliate of the National Rifle Association, never publicly supported the proposal, saying instead they were focusing this session on their current agenda, which did not include open carry. Ultimately, the lack of support from the influential gun lobby could have doomed the group’s efforts to get a bill introduced, open carry members opined on their forums.

I have a hard time believing that a bill like this can’t get passed in Texas. But it’ll have to wait till next session.

The Riddler goes on a rampage

The Observer looks at a trio of bills by Rep. Debbie Riddle in which she tries to solve the immigration issue all by herself.

Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball, is launching a three-pronged attack on non-citizens this session. Prong 1: Hook ‘em at work with HB 48, which would suspend employers’ licenses for “knowingly” employing undocumented workers. Prong 2: Nail ‘em at school with HB 50, which would disqualify undocumented students from receiving in-state tuition.

And then there’s Prong 3, which would, it seems, get ‘em everywhere else. HB 49 would create a Class B misdemeanor (Criminal Trespass by Illegal Aliens) that would effectively authorize local law enforcement to enforce two sections of the federal code governing most immigration law.

Asked if there were a precedent for such a law in other states, Riddle said, “If not, I’m willing to be on the cutting edge and do what’s bold here in Texas.”

[…]

Under HB 49, peace officers, acting on “reasonable suspicion,” could detain people for being undocumented – even if they have not committed another crime. If ICE confirms the detained person is in the U.S. illegally, the peace officer could then make an arrest.

[…]

Constitutionality aside, leaving immigration to the feds has worked out for federal agents and local law enforcers alike, says El Paso Police Chief Gregory Allen. “It’s been pretty clear cut,” Allen says. “I don’t think it should be spread out. ICE doesn’t help us out with our robbery problems or our burglary problems. They’re not cruising our neighborhoods. We shouldn’t be required to help them.”

Riddle’s response? “I don’t think that we should have this hair-splitting of, oh, well, this isn’t my job,” she says. “Citizens don’t really care that much about who is making sure that their security is established in place.”

However, according to Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo, burdening local law enforcement with enforcing federal immigration law could negatively impact a police department’s capacity to fight crime, since city police departments already have their hands – and jails – full enforcing current criminal statutes. What’s more, allowing local law officers to arrest illegal immigrants might discourage victims of questionable status from coming forward and reporting crimes, particularly in cases of family violence.

“You’d lose a lot of witnesses. There’d be a lot of crime that would go unreported,” says Acevedo. “I’ll give you an example. We went to a call with domestic violence. Here, a young woman was beaten by a legal resident and his threat to her was, if you call the police, you’re going to get deported.”

There is a precedent for this, and we know from experience that the result is even worse than what Chief Acevedo anticipates. I’m talking about Maricopa County and Sheriff Joe Arpaio, which has been doing exactly what Riddle wants for years. How’s that working out for them?

In Guadalupe, grocery store employees waited in vain for help during an armed robbery.

In Queen Creek, vandalism spread through a neighborhood where Maricopa County sheriff’s deputies rarely patrolled.

In Aguila, people bought guns in the face of rising crime that deputies couldn’t respond to quickly enough.

And in El Mirage, dozens of serious felony cases went uninvestigated.

Response times, arrest rates, investigations and other routine police work throughout Maricopa County have suffered over the past two years as Sheriff Joe Arpaio turned his already short-handed and cash-strapped department into an immigration enforcement agency, a Tribune investigation found.

Read the whole five-part series, which I’ve referenced before, and ask yourself why we’d want to emulate that. I can’t think of any good reason. I’m sure this thing would come with a hefty fiscal note as well, which in these tight budgetary times ought to be enough to give one pause regardless of one’s ideological perspective on the issue. I doubt Riddle cares about that, however – I’m sure she’d be happy to reapportion money from just about anywhere else for this. The bill has been referred to the Criminal Jurisprudence committee, where it will hopefully die a swift and well-deserved death.